740.0011 European War 1939/13248a: Telegram

The Acting Secretary of State to the Consul General at Algiers (Cole)

184. For Murphy only. Please arrange to see General Weygand alone at the first opportunity and inform him that I have telegraphed [Page 395] to you the summary of a conversation which I held with the President this morning and in the course of which the President expressed the following views. You may inform General Weygand that you are informing him of this message with my full authorization but without indicating in any way that this has been done by specific instruction of the President.

The President referred to reports which are coming from various sources that France and Germany have completed the framework for a treaty of peace and that the peace terms apparently agreed to by the French authorities provide for the utilization of French North African and French West African bases on the Atlantic. The President, of course, has in mind the positive assurances given him by the French Government in Vichy that neither Germany nor any other power would be permitted to occupy these bases under the terms of the armistice agreement. Naturally, in the opinion of the President there is no intrinsic difference between the armistice agreement and any treaty of peace which might be signed between France and Germany under present conditions since both instruments would only be signed under duress.

As the President made it clear in an address to the nation and to the other American Republics of May 27 last46 and in his recent message to the Congress47 covering the steps taken to assist the Icelandic people in the defense of Iceland, the United States does not desire to see any change of present sovereignty over what, in our opinion, are the strategic outposts in the Atlantic and our Government is solely concerned to see that these strategic points remain in reality in friendly hands. These statements clearly cover, and were intended so to cover, the French ports in North and West Africa on the Atlantic. So long as effective control over such ports as Casablanca and Dakar remain actually in French hands under the control of General Weygand and no German infiltration into those ports is permitted and no direct or indirect German authority is there exercised, this Government will consider those ports as remaining in “friendly hands”. What would be essential, however, from the standpoint of the United States would be to prevent the utilization by the Germans and other unfriendly powers of those ports as military, naval or air bases. This does not imply occupation by the United States of such outposts, but it does imply the prevention of their occupation by Germany.

This Government has two chief objectives in mind with relation to these questions: first, to keep the sealanes open in order to insure the delivery of supplies to Great Britain either across the North Atlantic or from the South Atlantic, as well as for the preservation of traditional American rights on the high seas; and, second, to prevent the utilization of strategic points in the Atlantic by unfriendly powers for the purpose of attacking the Western Hemisphere. In other words, this Government will undertake the prevention of the utilization of these outposts by Germany and powers subservient to Germany for purposes of aggression against the United States and the Western Hemisphere.

[Page 396]

The President spoke of General Weygand in very high terms expressing the belief that the policies and the principles for which General Weygand has stood and for which he has fought during his long and distinguished career make it evident that under no conditions would he acquiesce in German domination of, or control over, French colonies or possessions in North or West Africa.

The President recognizes the many difficulties which have confronted General Weygand during the past months in obtaining supplies of all kinds. The North African trade agreement will, the President believes, alleviate certain of these difficulties. The President, however, recognizes the continuing difficulties with regard to military supplies. Recently this Government has adopted certain measures which have made it possible for airplanes coming by air from the United States to be flown from West Africa to East Africa and to Egypt, and many supplies of a military character coming from the United States are now being carried on that “ferry route”. General Weygand is undoubtedly familiar with these facts and recognizes their significance, in the light of the situation in North Africa, as a means of possible supply in the event of some emergency.

At the conclusion of our conversation the President expressed the firm belief that only through the complete defeat of Hitlerite Germany and all that it stands for could there be brought about a peace treaty which would insure the restoration of France to the proud position which she has previously occupied and which would likewise insure the integrity of her territory and of her possessions. That, said the President, should be one of the prime accomplishments of such a peace treaty.

In communicating the above to General Weygand, please make it quite clear that you are not authorized to do more than deliver this message to him in oral terms. You should not leave any notes or memoranda.

You should likewise say that any information with regard to developing conditions that General Weygand may feel in a position to communicate to you for the secret information of your Government will be welcome.

Please telegraph a report of your conversation.

  1. Department of State Bulletin, May 31, 1941, p. 647.
  2. Ibid., July 12, 1941, p. 15.